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Although most commercial roofing systems are designed for long-term performance, many can still develop problems during their lifespan. Problems can arise when a roof is installed wrong, designed incorrectly, or not properly maintained. When looking to fix a problem commercial roof, there are four options: full replacement, re-cover, repair, or coat. It’s important to answer these questions first, which will guide you toward the choices below.

  • How bad is the roof and how much is damaged?
  • Does it have the proper amount of insulation?
  • Is the building occupied? How easy is it to tear off?
  • Is the owner looking for a long-term or short-term solution?
  • What is the building used for and where is it located?
  • Does the building generate moisture? If so, it may not have the right roof.

Here are the options and the benefits of each to help determine the best path to take.

Repair. Some problems on a roof can be minor and easily repaired, so they don’t warrant the expense of a replacement. Reasons for repairing a roof include:

  • The membrane is basically in good shape and has not met its life expectation;
  • the roof has good insulation; or
  • the owner wants to keep costs to a minimum.

Benefits: A repair is is less costly than a re-cover or replacement and extends the life of the roof.

Re-cover. Not all damaged roofs need replacing. If the roof is fundamentally sound and has good installation, the most effective solution is to re-cover. In many cases, if a roof has only one membrane you can put another on top. However, keep in mind that a roof can only be re-covered once. Reasons you may choose to re-cover a roof include:

  • The roof has good insulation, but the membrane has met its life expectancy; and
  • the roof has not been re-covered prior.

Benefits: A re-cover is cheaper than a full replacement, less disruptive than a full tear-off, and offers less risk of a roof being exposed to the elements. It is also new and extended warranties are available.

Full replacement. Sometimes a roof isn’t a good candidate for a re-cover if the damage is too extensive. If a roof has been re-covered once before, you need to replace it. Reasons to replace a roof include:

  • Repairs to the roof are extensive; as a rule of thumb, if 25% or more of the roof is damaged it’s best to replace; 
  • insulation is not up to par or wet; and
  • the owner is looking for a long-term solution and wants to utilize the latest technologies.

Benefits: A full replacement is the best option if an owner plans on keeping the building for the long-term. It also offers a lower maintenance cost, is the least likely option to have problems, and results in energy savings.

Coating. Many commercial roofs can be coated to extend their life. Reasons to coat a roof include:

  • Extra protection from leaks;
  • extends the life of the roof;
  • reflective coatings provide energy savings by reflecting heat and UV away from the building;
  • improves comfort inside the building by reflecting the sun’s rays away from the roof, keeping the roof and the building cooler;
  • improves aesthetics;
  • less disruptive than a tear-off; and
  • is cost effective; coating is often less expensive than other options, and rebates may be available and might be written off as an expense in year one (see an accountant).

Liza Barth is editor and writer with GAF ProBlog

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